Senior officials in Jerusalem on Tuesday harshly attacked the Palestinian Authority’s conditions for extending negotiations with Israel.
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Speaking at a press briefing, officials said the conditions presented by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “mean that he is not interested in peace,” adding that “a person who wants peace does not present conditions time after time that he knows Israel cannot accept.”
Meanwhile, five hours of talks in Jerusalem between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, mediated by U.S. special Mideast envoy Martin Indyk, yielded no breakthrough. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy Isaac Molho represented the Israelis, and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Palestinian General Intelligence head Majd Faraj represented the Palestinians.
In a press conference earlier in the day with Israeli journalists in Ramallah, Abbas said the renewal of talks must be based on two principles: First, the release of the fourth group of prisoners, as Israel already committed to this move. The 30 prisoners to be released to their homes will include 14 Arabs Israelis. According to Abbas, any new condition such as deporting the prisoners would be considered a breach of the agreement.
The second principle is immediate discussion on the question of borders, to be conducted over a period of three months. Throughout this period the sides will focus solely on determining the border, and it will be accompanied by a full freeze of settlement construction. Abbas laid down the same conditions in a meeting with Labor and Meretz MKs in Ramallah last week.
Officials in Jerusalem said that during meetings between the negotiating teams over the past weeks, the Palestinians had previously presented the conditions of which Abbas spoke earlier in the day, and that Israel had rejected them.
“Abu Mazen [Abbas] wants to receive without giving anything and he will continue to do so until the international community demands that he demonstrate seriousness in the talks and willingness to move ahead,” senior officials said.
Senior officials said the press conference had been an attempt to defraud the Israeli public. “At the same time he makes his unfounded declarations of peace, Abu Mazen is holding peace talks with Hamas – which is known to the whole world as a terror organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and the murder of Jews,” they said.
Akunis: 'Abbas is Arafat in disguise'
Ofir Akunis, deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said Abbas was essentially no different from his predecessor Yasser Arafat.
"Abu Mazen is Arafat in disguise," said Akunis. "The Palestinian leadership under Abu Mazen changed only in tone, not in content. Underneath the diplomatic sweet talk hides an extremist leadership whose face is not turned toward peace or an agreement, but toward endlessly extorting the release of murderers, concessions and retreats by Israel – as conditions just for the holding of negotiations."
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, speaking at a conference in Ramla, addressed his remarks to the Palestinian leader, saying: "What are you threatening? To dissolve an authority that incites terror?"
"Abu Mazen is now threatening for the seventh time to dissolve the Palestinian Authority. … I suggest to Abu Mazen – if you're going to shoot, then shoot, don't talk," Bennett said in English, quoting a line from Clint Eastwood's movie "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" especially beloved by Israeli politicians.